Namibia: Inequality Overshadows Human Development

12 December 2019

Namibia remains one of the countries with the most glaring inequalities in the world, although it made significant improvements on the human development index.

The latest Human Development Index (HDI) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) yesterday, shows that Namibia is still a high-middle income-earning country, and competes well with Botswana and South Africa, albeit with a serious gap between the rich and the poor.

The report in part stated that key among inequality drivers are unemployment among the youth, hovering above 40%; poor access to sanitation for the poor; as well as substandard housing for the middle-income to poor and very poor groups.

The country has managed to improve on its HDI from 1990 to 2018, recorded at 0,579 to 0,645, respectively.

This is according to the Human Development Report released and launched yesterday by the UNDP, where they stressed that Namibia still needs to do a lot to minimise the gap between rich and poor.

Representing the homeless people, who are largely affected by inequality, the chairperson of the homeless people's parliament Romanzo Steenkamp stressed that inequality is the most consistent, identified cause of homelessness, but is the least spoken about.

He said another cause of homelessness is the unfair distribution of land, and the government not making houses available, despite them hearing of houses that have been demolished.

He reiterated the need for the government to make available housing for his community because they are currently living in deplorable conditions. Steenkamp, who was also speaking at the launch of the report, said the government should allocate housing to civil society groups so that these houses can be used to house homeless Namibians.

Having personally experienced unfair treatment because of his situation, he added that homeless people countrywide are indeed discriminated against, condemned, and have to go through a lot of public scrutiny.

"I was once hospitalised for a long period, and the things people were saying about me were not nice. Some people said I was there because I wanted a warm blanket, and others said it is because I wanted food," Steenkamp stated.

Even if they find temporary housing, it lacks a supply of basic amenities such as water and electricity, and is usually in a dilapidated state, and unfit to house people.

"Homeless citizens stay in very humiliating housing conditions without basic services and security. They face stigmatisation, criminalisation, and discrimination because of their status as homeless people," the chairperson stressed.

Speaking on homeless children and on behalf of the child welfare ministry, executive director Wilhencia Uiras said her ministry has developed strategies aimed at assisting these children, stressing that when it comes to social issues, the work they have done should be acknowledged.

They indeed continue to put in efforts to assist homeless children, and one of the things in place is an after-school centre at Windhoek's Grysblok location. At Rundu and Katima Mulilo, children are placed in shelters and provided with schooling.

"We recently received a farm from the ministry of lands, just outside Witvlei, and we visited it last week. The intention is to use it as an industrial school, where we equip children who are out of school, or have no schooling and need basic skills," Uiras said.

Alka Bhatia, UNDP Namibia's resident representative, said Namibia's HDI for 2018 is 0,645. But when the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0,417, a loss of 35,3% due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices.

"South Africa shows losses due to inequality of 34,4%. The average loss due to inequality for medium HDI countries is 25,9%, and for sub-Saharan Africa it is 30,5%. The human inequality coefficient for Namibia is equal to 33,6%," she added.

She then called on all stakeholders, inclusive of policymakers, the private sector and the media to assist with issues such as inequality in Namibia, adding that this should not be left to the government alone.

[email protected]; Twitter: Char_Ngatjiheue.

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